While there are a number of offshore wind projects along the Atlantic coast promising to come online within the next 5 years, there are only two offshore wind farms operating so far totaling 42 megawatts of capacity: one off of Block Island, Rhode Island, with 5 turbines and one off the coast of Virginia that is a pilot project with only 2 turbines. Offshore wind is a very expensive technology—over 3 times as expensive as onshore wind–, is intermittent, requiring the wind to be blowing, has caused bird deaths, and has been alleged to contribute to the killing of whales that have been washing up along the shoreline. Fifty mayors along the East Coast are now calling for a moratorium on offshore wind development due to whale and dolphin mortalities. Most recently, the Board of Commissioners of Cape May County, New Jersey, voted unanimously to oppose an offshore wind farm proposed for its coastline, citing the project’s negative impacts on the environment, tourism industry and beach vistas. But, the foreign companies building and erecting these turbines want to complete the projects because of the massive subsidies they will receive from the U.S. government through the Inflation Reduction Act and other legislation pushed by the Biden administration.
The Vineyard Wind project off the coast on Martha’s Vineyard, for example, is being pushed by foreign companies who want the lucrative tax credits that Congress has approved under the Inflation Reduction Act and other legislation. The project is owned by Avangrid, a subsidiary of Spanish utility Iberdrola, and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. If the $3.5 billion project gets built, the two companies could collect hundreds of millions of dollars in federal tax credits. The wind industry acknowledges that the government subsidizes them in the hundreds of billions of dollars but lobbies for more support on the basis that they are free of carbon dioxide emissions. Americans, however, need to keep in mind that the social benefit is close to zero because even if the United States were to reduce its carbon footprint to zero, it would not matter because of China’s massive and increasing levels of carbon dioxide emissions.
Cape May Decision
The Cape May County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution green-lighting reasonable use of the county’s resources to oppose the wind projects developed by Danish multinational energy company Orsted. The county is also considering legal options and appealed a state public utility permit that would transfer “real property interests” from residents to Orsted. Cape May County is New Jersey’s southernmost county, consisting of 16 separate jurisdictions and a population of about 95,000 residents.
The County of Cape May was originally interested in working with Orsted to find a way, with perhaps some modifications, to reduce visual, environmental and economic impacts. The Cape May County officials have been engaging with Orsted since 2021, but the negotiations ultimately fell through after the company turned to state and federal officials who were supportive of the development. Further, the state and federal government agencies were ignoring the county’s concerns. The approach among the foreign corporation and their partners in the state and federal governments is to build these things as fast as they can despite the potential for devastating environmental and economic impacts.
Cape May’s decision targets Orsted’s Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 projects, which together, would consist of nearly 200 wind turbines across 161,000 acres in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape May County. The turbines would be as close as nine miles from its coastline and would be visible from every beach in the county. The project would also have two transmission line corridors with one substation in Cape May County. The county argued that the wind project would have little to no positive impact on global warming and lead to a 15 percent decline in tourism, translating to a billion-dollar loss for the local economy and harming marine wildlife.
Offshore Wind Moratorium Requested Due to Marine Deaths
East Coast mayors representing cities in three Democratic-led states — New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland — are calling for an offshore wind development moratorium due to marine wildlife deaths. In a letter to Congress, 50 mayors from across the three states said offshore wind development should immediately cease until a thorough investigation is conducted. The mayors expressed concern that the increasing number of whale and dolphin deaths is negatively impacting the ocean ecosystem their communities rely upon. Whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Since December, at least 39 whales and 37 dolphins have been found stranded on East Coast beaches near where energy developers have been conducting offshore wind surveys. Recently, a humpback whale and six dolphins were beached near acoustic surveys. For months, local leaders, Republican lawmakers and environmental groups have called for a moratorium on offshore wind development and an investigation into wildlife deaths, but their concerns have gone nowhere as Biden administration officials are pushing offshore wind. Days after taking office, President Biden issued an executive action ordering his administration to expand opportunities for the offshore wind industry as part of his climate agenda. He later outlined goals to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030– the most ambitious goal of its kind worldwide.
A study estimated about 250,000 bird deaths a year from wind turbines. With around 50,000 megawatts of installed capacity, there are roughly 5 bird deaths per megawatt per year. While bird mortality from other sources may be much higher, the location and height of wind turbines is especially harmful to birds of prey and other species in peril. Most other bird deaths occur closer to ground but involve common birds whose number are not threatened.
To reach the Biden Administration’s goal of “net zero” emissions, 2 million megawatts of wind capacity will be needed. At five bird deaths per megawatt, there would be about 10 million bird deaths a year. Because the golden eagle is protected under the Eagle Act, wind facilities require “incidental take permits” for killing them issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). However, the wind industry is ignoring the Eagle Law and not getting the required permits. Further, the Biden administration is not enforcing the law and is making it easier for wind facilities to dodge the permits through general permits proposed by the FWS. That would result in something like 300 million dead birds over the combined 30-year lives of the general permits.
Bird Deaths in the U.K.
In the U.K., it is estimated that 10,000 to 100,000 birds are killed by wind turbine blade strikes each year. The actual number of bird kills is difficult to estimate because the birds do not come through at a constant rate and weather makes a difference to the count. But, it is clear that birds do fly into turbines. The U.K. has nearly 11,500 wind turbines, most located on onshore wind farms. However, the U.K. government recently proposed a significant expansion of offshore wind farms, which will bring more seabirds into contact with wind turbines. Assessing how many seabirds come into contact with offshore wind turbines is challenging since collecting their corpses at sea is impossible. Certain seabirds are particularly vulnerable to wind turbine collisions, including gulls, eagles, gannets, kittiwakes and skuas.
Another problem in the U.K. with wind is occurring in Scotland. Diesel generators are needed to warm and back up wind turbines. Scottish Power said that 71 of its windmills were hooked up to the fossil fuel supply after a fault developed on the grid. The firm was forced to keep the turbines warm during very cold weather in December, but other occurrences have happened among a number of environmental and health and safety failings. Wind turbines are regularly offline because of taking energy away from the grid rather than producing it and they are also left operating on half power for long periods due to parts that have not been replaced. Also, over 4000 liters of oil have leaked from hydraulic units on turbines and been sprayed over the Scottish countryside.
Offshore Wind Is Expensive
According to the Energy Information Administration, including generous federal tax credits, the levelized cost of electricity from new offshore wind is $100.34 per megawatt hour. For comparison, new onshore wind would cost $31.07 per megawatt hour and would make more sense financially for taxpayers and ratepayers than offshore wind, despite also receiving lucrative tax credits.
The Biden administration is pushing offshore wind, despite its extreme cost to consumers and its lucrative subsidies being paid by American taxpayers. The administration’s goal is 30 gigawatts by 2030. Getting there will result in a large number of bird deaths, whale deaths, and dolphin deaths that are not being taken seriously, despite a moratorium on offshore wind development being requested by 50 mayors from New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland to study the issue. Forcing offshore wind development is principally benefiting foreign companies that want to receive massive subsidies from the U.S. government, especially when the government is throwing out the rule book, ignoring valid community input and laws and doing these things with a very heavy authoritarian hand.